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Tips & Lists

10 Reasons Why You Should Eat More Avocado

Avocado has got to be one of my favorite fruits. I include it in my meals nearly everyday. I put it on salads, in smoothies, spread it on toast, put it on sandwiches, add it to wraps, or just eat it right out of the skin with a spoon!

But not only is avocado delicious, it’s also very good for you. If you don’t already include avocado in your regular diet, this list of health benefits might convince you to start adding it to your regular menu.

Why You Should Eat More Avocado

10 Reasons Why You Should Eat More Avocado:

  1.  Avocado Can Lower Cholesterol – The oleic acid in avocados helps to reduce cholesterol levels.
  2. Avocados are Loaded With Antioxidants – Antioxidants help prevent disease and have even been touted to help against cancer and Alzheimer disease.
  3. Eating Avocados May Help You Lose Weight – Avocado has been known to be a hunger-squasher – the fiber and healthy fats make you feel fuller for longer.
  4. Avocados Provide Healthy Fats – Not all fat is bad for you. Avocados are packed with monounsaturated fat, which it where you get most of your calories from the avocado. Monounsaturated fat helps lessen you LDL cholesterol, which is harmful to your body.
  5. Avocados Are Good For Your Heart – Avocados help with the absorption of carotenoids (beta-carotene and lycopene), which are essential for heart health. They are virtually the only fruit that contains monounsaturated fat, making them a heart-healthy diet choice.
  6. Avocados Are Packed With Vitamins – You will find vitamins B, K and E in avocados. Vitamin B helps you maintain a healthy skin tone and metabolism, vitamin K is instrumental in bone growth and density, while vitamin E is key for strong immunity and healthy skin and eyes.
  7. Avocados Are High in Fiber – Avocados provide 37% of the daily recommended amount of fiber. They contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber helps you with appetite control by making you feel full, while insoluble fiber is great for cleaning out you bowels.avocado selection
  8. Avocados Are Great During Pregnancy – On top of all the other benefits of avocados, they have been known to help with morning sickness and also help your baby’s brain and tissues grow. Plus, if you’re having trouble gaining weight during pregnancy, they are a great food to load up on thanks to the healthy fats.
  9. Avocados Are Potassium Rich – Avocados contain more potassium than bananas! Potassium helps lower blood pressure and is something that most people don’t get enough of in their diets, putting them at risk of stroke and heart problems.
  10. Avocados are DELICIOUS! – Seriously! If none of the above convinced you to add more avocados to your diet, maybe the deliciousness will! They are rich and fresh and squishy in your mouth and fit in with almost any meal.

How To Choose the Right Avocado

Avocados only ripen after they have been picked, this is why you will find that most stores and markets will have mostly hard, green avocados available in their produce section.

Because of this, you will most likely not be eating your avocado on the day you bring it home from the store. Leave it on the counter at room temperature (not in the fridge) until it ripens. You’ll know it’s ripe by the color – it will change to dark green, almost black – and becomes soft when you gently squeeze it. One trick that has been known to help an avocado ripen faster is to put it in a paper bag with a banana and place it in a dark cupboard. Try it and let me know how it goes in the comments.

 What’s your favorite way to eat more avocado?

Happy New Year! 3 Lists to Make (and Burn) For 2015

It’s New Year’s Eve. Many of us use this time to reflect on the year that has passed and plan for the year ahead. With this in mind, I wanted to share a tradition that I first heard about and started last year, and I invite you to play along.

Happy New Year 2015

Make 3 Lists

The activity includes making three lists as you reflect on the past year and begin to visualize the year ahead in your mind.

  1. Make a list of what you want to leave behind in the year that is ending.
  2. Make a list of the good things you want to take with you into new year.
  3. Make a list of the things you want to create for yourself in the year ahead.

Then tonight, on New Year’s Eve, take the list of things you want to leave behind in 2014, and you burn it!

Now you can take the burning literally or metaphorically. If you don’t have a fireplace or safe place to burn stuff, you can rip it up and flush it down the toilet, or fold a paper airplane and fly it off a bridge, use your imagination and do whatever will have the most meaning to you to make your commitment stick!

My “crap list” will have some interesting things on it:

  • It will have a few people on it.
  • It will have a few bad habits on it.
  • It will have a few things on it that I know have been holding me back from getting myself to where I want to be.

Paper on FireAnd tonight, it’s gonna BURN!

I see so much potential for awesomeness in 2015, and I don’t want to carry any of the things or people that have been holding me back into the year ahead. A new year is a chance for a fresh start. And although I truly believe that EVERYday is a chance to start over, a new year just seems to have that much more meaning and impact.

So what will you put on your lists? What do you know is bad for you? What is good for you? And what do you strive to achieve? Make your lists! From the moment you write it down, and you see it in front of you, if becomes REALALITY!

Write it! Burn it! Live it!

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Wishing you an amazing 2015!

What are some of your goals for 2015?

How to Shoot Slo-Mo Video With Your iPhone

A little while back I started playing with the new iOS8 slo-mo feature on my iPhone camera and I have been very entertained by the results. (Demo videos in this post were shot with an iPhone 5s running iOS8.)

Of course one of my first videos had to be of my chocolate lab, Roxie. I laughed when the slo-mo recording made her sound like a vicious lion!

Slo-Mo Video Demo – Barking Dog

How to Shoot Slo-Mo Video With Your iPhone

  1. Make sure you have iOS8 installed on your iPhone. If you don’t, go ahead and do the update. (If you’ve been nervous about updating your iPhone 5s, don’t be – mine works just fine.)
  2. Slo-Mo Feature iPhone IOS8Open your iPhone’s camera. It will likely be set to ‘Photo’ mode.
  3. Swipe your finger to the right until you get to the Slo-Mo setting. You will notice that the camera hasiOS8 Slo-Mo Editing on iPhone zoomed in a bit in video mode so you may need to reposition yourself to get everything you want in the frame.
  4. Tap the red record button to begin recording and tap it again to stop recording when you’re finished capturing your video.
  5. Now it’s time to edit! Go to playback mode and select your video.
  6. You will noticed two scrubbing markers on either side of the playback bar. You can adjust these to where you want the slow motion to begin and end. To preview your edits, tap the play button.
  7. When you’re happy with your slo-mo edits, tap save.
  8. You can now upload your slo-mo video to YouTube, Facebook or your preferred sharing sites to share your video with the world!

Slo-Mo Video Demo – Walking in fallen leaves

Every fall I LOVE kicking around in the fallen leaves, so I thought this would make a fun slo-mo video demo. Compared to last year’s leaf kicking video, this one is much more fun!

Have you shot any fun slo-mo videos with the new iOS8 slo-mo feature? Please share the links in the comments.

3 Reasons You MUST Build a Lifestyle Business

If  you caught Natalie Sission’s webinar on Thursday, you learned about the Freedom Plan, her amazing new program that teaches you how to build your ideal lifestyle business. 

But what exactly IS a lifestyle business? And, more importantly, why do you need one? 

The basic premise of a lifestyle business is that the entire purpose of the business is to enable the lifestyle of your choice. In other words, you decide what your ideal lifestyle looks like, then work backward to figure out what you need to do to get there. 

Click here to get the Freedom Plan now (registration ends September 27)

So, what are the three best reasons to build a lifestyle business?

  1. The Freedom Plan from the Suitcase EntrepreneurYour job sucks. It’s a well-known fact that most of us work to get by or because we feel like we have to be beholden to a job in order to have a steady income. Fortunately, we live in an era in which this bondage to our jobs is more of an illusion than ever. The barrier to entry for becoming an internet entrepreneur is lower than ever.
  2. Making your own career and travel choices rocks. Once your lifestyle biz is up and running, you’ll be astounded at the freedom you enjoy. You can literally work anywhere on earth with an internet connection. Most lifestyle business owners choose to work fewer hours (because LIFESTYLE is what it’s truly all about), dedicating their fully focused attention to running their business at predetermined times. As Natalie mentioned in her webinar, she literally travels the globe — one country after the next — all while running her six-figure business.
  3. Creating money on demand is awesome. With your own lifestyle business, you don’t have to wait for every other Friday for that elusive paycheck. YOU make the decisions on how to bring money in the door, and YOU are the beneficiary of your own hard, focused work.

Click here to enroll in the Freedom Plan now.

Natalie’s Freedom Plan program walks you step-by-step from concept to systems to generating your first income to scaling and making MASSIVE income so you can finally ditch that J-O-B for good. 

There are just a few more days to enroll (through September 27), so don’t delay!

Click here to get it now!

 

Photography: 10 Composition and Creativity Tips

I’ve shared a whole schwack of photo tips over the past several weeks:

Now that we’ve covered the technical aspects, we will be getting into the fun part with some composition and creativity tips.

In photography, composition and creativity can be about following the rules or breaking them. It’s all about experimenting and trial and error. There is no wrong answer when it comes to being creative, so get out there and start shooting to see where your eye takes you.

10 Composition and Creativity Tips

  1. Create a Project For Yourself – Coming up with shooting ideas can be tough sometimes when you’re running low on inspiration. To get around this, set yourself a project so that you have a focus. If you’re feeling particularly inspired one day, create a list of mini projects and write them on small pieces of paper. Drop them into a jar and pull one out every time you need some inspiration. Check out this article to get yourself started.
  2. Simplicity – Some of the greatest photo compositions are not about what’s in the image, but rather about what has been left out. Look through your viewfinder to see if there is anything you can remove that doesn’t add to your image and adjust your shot to crop it out.
  3. Straight Horizon – Make sure your horizon is level. There’s nothing worse than capturing a great shot but then finding out later that your horizon is totally crooked, sometimes rendering your image unusable.
  4. Rule of Thirds – The rule of thirds states than an image is most pleasing when its subjects or regions are composed along imaginary lines which divide the image into thirds — both vertically and horizontally. Position the important elements in your scene along those lines, or at the points where they meet. You can also apply the rule of thirds to existing photos by cropping them later. You’ll find more information on the rule of thirds here.Photography: Rule of Thirds
  5. Fill the Frame – Filling up the frame forces you to keep your background simple and clean. Getting in closer to your subject eliminates distracting elements and cluttered backgrounds that detract from your image. Use a wide aperture to render your background slightly out of focus to make the viewer focus directly on the foreground and subject being presented.
  6. Look For Reflections – Reflections in water or in glass can add symmetry to your image. You can also try to shoot reflections in isolation for more abstract compositions.
    Ucluelet Boat Reflections
  7. Try a Low Viewpoint – Get a more creative view by shooting from ground level for a different perspective on common subjects. For portraits of animals or children, get down to their eye level for a more intimate image.
  8. Try a Panoramic Image – I’m a big fan of the long thin panoramic images. They can add impact to your landscape shots. You don’t need to worry about stitching images together however, you can just take your high resolution image into your image editing software and crop it for the same effect.
    Vancouver - False Creek Panorama
  9. Shoot in Odd Numbers – Odd numbers give a more balanced composition than even numbers. Try to arrange your shot with an odd number of elements.
  10. Break The Rules!!! – The rules of composition can be helpful when you’re finding your eye and your vision, but they can also be a bit restricting. Once you have the rules down pat, get creative and start breaking them. For example, try putting the horizon at the top or bottom of the frame.

There are many more composition rules and ideas out there, but these should get you started.

Bonus Tip: Try shooting a picture everyday to get yourself into the habit of finding great photographic opportunities. We all have our smartphones with us all the time these days, so use your phone’s camera if you don’t want to lug your DSLR around with you everywhere. Post your daily pics to Instagram and see what people like. This is a great tool to find out what people find aesthetically pleasing. Share your Instagram profile link below so we can follow along and weigh in too!

Do you have any composition tips or tricks to add? Share them in the comments.

Photography: 10 Lighting and Colour Tips

In the past few weeks we have covered camera setup and shoot planningexposure and camera settings, and focusing and sharpness. Today I’ll be sharing some lighting and colour tips to help advance your photography skills even further.

10 Lighting and Colour Tips

  1. Take Advantage of Cloudy Days – You don’t need to wait for a sunny day to go out and shoot. Cloudy days are great for portraits, macro and even some landscape situations. The cloud provide a natural diffuser to the sun’s bright light and help eliminate harsh shadows.
  2. Shoot Into the Light – Don’t always shoot with the sun behind you. Experiment with shooting into the light for some interesting images. Try to position the sun (or light source) behind your subject to help minimize flare.
    Lynn Canyon, Vancouver, Canada - © 2011 Mariska Richters Photography

    Lynn Canyon, Vancouver, Canada – © 2011 Mariska Richters

  3. Shoot at the Golden Hour – The golden hour is one of my favourite times of day for shooting. The golden hour is the period shortly after sunrise or before sunset during which daylight is redder and softer compared to when the sun is higher in the sky. At these times the light is much warmer and you will get much better colour. You will also get some interesting shadows and textures.
  4. Use a Reflector – A reflector can help you fill in shadows by bouncing light back into the darker areas of your image. If you don’t have a proper reflector, you can use anything from a white piece of paper or poster board to a sheet of fabric like a t-shirt.
  5. Experiment With Fill-In Flash – Use your camera’s built-in or external flash to lighten shadows when the sunlight causes dark shadows on your subject.
  6. Use a Diffuser – The sun can produce some pretty harsh shadows when it’s high in the sky. Experiment with placing a diffuser between the light and the subject to soften shadows.You don’t have to spend big money on an expensive light diffuser, you can easily make one yourself out of a piece of white cloth or paper.
  7. Shoot at Night – Night photography is where I’ve produced some of my favourite images. Experiment using long exposures and other lighting techniques like light trails and painting with light. Be sure to bring a sturdy tripod and remote shutter release to help capture sharp images.
    Granville Street, Vancouver, Canada

    Granville Street, Vancouver, Canada – © 2010 Mariska Richters

  8. Play With Your White Balance – It’s easy to set your camera to automatic white balance, but the auto setting can be fooled in lighting some situations. If you’re shooting in a mixed lighting setting, try shooting a white or grey card and use this to help you learn about and set your custom white balance. Remember that as long as you are shooting in raw file format, you can always adjust the white balance with your software in post-production later.
  9. Shoot at Twilight – Just  before sunrise and just after sunset are great for capturing some moody landscape images. It’s also a good time to catch street scenes and cityscapes while the sky has a bit of light yet you still capture the city lights.
  10. Try Shooting In Black and White – I’ve found that I don’t shoot much black and white since the emergence of digital photography. It was far easier to do when you used a roll of black and white film in your camera. But harsh sunlight can produce strong shadows for some interesting high-contrast back and white images. Try it!

Do you have any colour or lighting tricks to add? Share them in the comments below.

Next week I’ll share Composition and Creativity Tips.

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Photography: 10 Focusing and Sharpness Tips

In the past couple of weeks I’ve shared some photography tips with you relating to camera setup and shoot planning, as well as exposure and camera settings. Today I’ll be covering 10 focusing and sharpness tips to help improve your photography even more.

 Get Tack Sharp Images – 10 Focusing and Sharpness Tips

  1. Nikon DioptreHold the Camera Properly – Hold your elbows close to your body and hold your left hand under the lens. Release the shutter just after you exhale to help hold the camera steady and minimize camera shake.
  2. Focus Your Viewfinder – Most DSLR cameras enable you to adjust your viewfinder for your personal eyesight using the dioptre adjustment dial. Make sure you adjust this to ensure you can see your subjects clearly through your viewfinder.
  3. Set the Right Focus Point – Set your camera to single-point AF mode, rather than letting the camera choose the focus point automatically. You can then position the active point on the subject that you want to be sharp. This is very useful when the main subject is not right in the centre of the frame.
  4. Use Focus Lock – Use this when your subject is not right in the middle of your frame. Position the subject in the middle, focus on it, use the focus lock and then re-frame the shot.
  5. Pre-Focus – If you have a moving subject and can predict where it is going to be, pre-focus on that spot to make capturing a great action shot easier.
  6. Shallow Depth of Field – A shallow depth of field (or wide aperture) to blur the background can make your subject appear sharper than when your whole photo is sharp. However, you should avoid using very small apertures unless you absolutely have to because lenses produce softer results at f/22 than at f/8.
  7. Hyperfocal Focusing – To get the full scene sharp with a wide angle lens, you should focus around one third of the way into the scene with an aperture of f/16.
    Studio-Portrait---Focus-on-the-Eyes
  8. Focus on Eyes – The eyes are usually the most important feature of a portrait, so make sure you focus on eyes of your subject. This is especially important if you’re shooting with a shallow depth of field and wide aperture.
  9. Nikon ML-L3 RemoteUse a Tripod – This is the best way to ensure sharp images, especially when shooting at long shutter speeds. A monopod may be a better option for action shots to minimize camera shake but still move around fairly easily. If you don’t have a tripod or monopod, brace the camera on a solid object like a post or a wall. When all else fails you can kneel or lie down to create a more stable position.
  10. Use a Remote – For long exposures, mount your camera on a tripod and then use a remote shutter release or the self timer to avoid camera shake when you press the shutter release button. (I use the Nikon ML-L3)

What focusing tricks do you use to get super sharp images? Please share in the comments.

Stay tuned next week for lighting and colour tips.

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10 Must-Have Travel Apps For iPhone

I like to be organized when I travel to ensure I have a stress-free experience. Thankfully, there are some great travel apps for iPhone to help with this from planning a trip, to being on the ground at the destination, to connectivity with friends and family back home.

So without further ado, here are my 10 Must-Have Travel Apps for iPhone:

      • Must-Have Travel Apps for iPhoneSkyScanner SkyScanner aggregates fares from airlines and the big travel sites to find you the best deal. For the budget traveler, there’s also an option to pin your search to your start screen and keep an eye on price fluctuations.
      • XE Currency Use this free app for all your currency exchange needs while you’re on the road. XE Currency allows you to track multiple currencies at once and uses live currency rates so it’s always accurate.
      • Dropbox I use Dropbox to save all my flight, hotel and insurance information as well as any other travel related documents that I may need to access while on the road. I find this much more convenient and secure than carrying all that paper around with me. I also have my iPhone set up to back up my photos to Dropbox as soon as I connect to wi-fi. This allows for easy organizing, filtering and sharing photos from my laptop later.
      • Google Maps This is one of the most used apps on my iPhone both at home and when I travel to know where I am and where I’m going. If I know I won’t have wi-fi or mobile reception where I’m going, I simply take a screen shot of the map before I head out, just in case.
      • Trip Advisor Use Trip Advisor to check out brutally honest reviews from real people for accommodations, restaurants, activities and attractions. I’ve found this to be extremely useful in finding places that suit my wants and needs, and for avoiding places that are less than adequate. I also leave my own reviews on TripAdvisor from time to time, view my profile here.
        A secondary Trip Advisor app is the Offline City Guide, which pairs suggestions for where to visit, shop, and eat at your destination. Avoid the stress of finding a wi-fi connection by downloading offline maps for your destination. 
      • Google Translate This app was my saviour when traveling in Russia where I didn’t speak the language, nor could I read the alphabet. Simply type in what you want to say and the app will translate it to your language of choice both in text and sound through your iPhone’s speaker.
      • Kindle Don’t weigh down your luggage with books! Download your reading list for Kindle and read them on the iPhone or iPad.
      • YouTube Capture If you like instant upload gratification, use the YouTube Capture to get your travel videos uploaded to YouTube right away. You can record your video directly through the app, or upload videos from your library, edit, add music, a title and video description and then hit upload. Quick and easy! –> Subscribe to my YouTube channel!
      • Instagram If you’re like me, you take a ton of photos when you travel. Use Instagram to share your favourite photos with family, friends and followers. Customize your images using custom filter effects to create beautiful shareable photos. Instagram allows you to share your photos publicly, privately or send your pics directly to a specific user. –> Follow me on Instagram!
      • WhatsApp Messenger This cross-platform messaging app allows you to send messages, photos and video to your friends and family across the globe using wi-fi or your phones data package without any additional international texting charges.

What are some of your favourite travel apps? Please share below.

 

Photography: 10 Camera Set-Up and Planning Tips

Summer presents us with some great photography opportunities with more light, longer days and clear summer skies. So with that in mind, I’m sharing some camera set-up and planning tips to help improve your photography skills not only for summer, but year round.

  1. Set your camera’s date, time and filename – Setting the date and time will help you organize your photos later when editing and will make them easier to find down the road if you’re looking for a particular photo. Set the filename to something you will find easily and can identify as your own images. I use my initials.
  2. Turn off camera sounds – Turning off the camera beeps makes shooting less intrusive. When shooting wildlife, especially, these camera sounds can distract and scare the animals, which could ruin your shot.
  3. Camera RAW SettingSet your file format – You should be shooting RAW files for the highest quality images with the most versatility for editing. Raw files can take longer to write to your memory cards, however, so if you are time bound, set it to high quality JPG mode.
  4. Format memory cards – Make sure your memory cards are formatted and ready for use. It helps to get into the habit of formatting your cards immediately after you’ve downloaded your images to ensure that they are ready for the next time you want to use them.
  5. Charge your batteries – Get into the habit of charging your batteries as soon as they get low to avoid a dead battery when you need your camera unexpectedly. There’s nothing worse than missing a shot because you are out of battery power.
  6. Clean your equipment – Clean your lenses, filters and camera sensors regularly to avoid unnecessary image editing later to remove dust and spots. Keep a lens cloth in your camera bag to clean your lenses on the go. Give your tripod a good wash and wipe down after you use it outside as well, to avoid damage or corrosion.
  7. Clean out your camera bag – To prevent getting dirt and dust in your camera and lenses, clean out your camera bag at least every few months.
  8. Pack Spare Essentials – Always carry a spare charged battery and extra memory cards in your camera bag. They don’t weigh much and it’s worth having them around if you need them.
  9. Bring a plastic garbage bag – Pack a plastic garbage bag in case of rain or as a ground cover if you have to get down in the dirt.
  10. Plan your shoot – Check a map before you head out, so you don’t waste time (and optimal light) looking for your location. Research the sun’s position ahead of time to ensure it doesn’t end up being behind a building or mountain at the time of your shoot. I use the Photographer’s Ephemeris, a handy app available for desktop and mobile devices that gives you sunrise and sunset times and directions, and lots of other information.
    Photographer's Ephemeris

What are some of the things you do to set up your camera and plan your photo shoots? Share in the comments below.

Stay tuned next week for 10 Exposure and Camera Setting Tips!

 

Cocktail: How to Make a Snake Bite

It’s full on summer here in the Cowichan Valley, and that means that it’s time to pour some refreshing summertime cocktails! So today I’ll be sharing with you how to make a Snake Bite.

How to make a Snake Bite

Snake Bite Ingredients:
(makes 2 drinks)

  • Light Beer (preferably a lager)
  • Apple Cider  (my go-to is Strongbow)
  • Fresh lime slices
  • Ice (optional
  • You will also need 2 pint glasses

A Snake Bite is ridiculously easy to make: Half beer, half cider, done!

I got a bit adventurous with my ingredients today and went with a local summer ale from the Vancouver Island Brewery in Victoria, Canada, the Beachcomber Summer Ale. And for the cider today, I went with Fat Chance Cider from Vancouver, Canada.

How To Make A Snake Bite:

Mariska's Snake Bite Cocktail

  • Pour half a beer into each pint glass
  • Top off each glass with cider
  • Garnish each glass with a lime slice
  • Add a few ice cubes if it’s super hot out (optional)

BOOM! You’ve got yourself a Snake Bite!

Now plant your bum in a sunny spot and ENJOY! (Don’t forget to lube up with sunscreen!)

Cheers!

What are some of your favourite sunny summertime cocktails? Please share in the comments.